Attending agency conferences and network group meetings always provides great insight into the challenges agencies face. And the topic of growth – and business development – is always a core focus. It’s a deeply frustrating and subjective area, so we find it not only addressed by speakers and panels, but also a key topic over lunch and cocktails.
It’s on everyone’s mind – because, whether you are a small or large agency, growth is vital.
We’ve attended many of these events, and have learned from agency heads some of the (relatively) easy to apply fixes that, applied correctly and consistently, can accelerate your agency growth. Here are 4 of the key approaches:
1. 2 Critical Questions for Management
✓ What Does Your Agency Stand for?
✓ How will the agency make $?
Rick Webb, a venture partner for Quotidian Ventures and previously co-founder of Barbarian Group, knows about starting an agency and making it successful. As Rick says: “If your senior management cannot answer those 2 questions, how can you get prospects interested in you? And how do you know what services, people and resources are needed to be profitable?”
(We know this is the foundation of any business, and a most important step to growth – though it’s often the trickiest. For tips that can help you define what your agency stands for, click here (Attract the Game-Changer)
2. Growing from small to big, how?
Not every agency wants to get big, but most want to get bigger than they currently are. Tim McClure, co-founder of GSD&M, was at the helm while the agency grew from 100 employees in 1981 to over 450 today. One strategy they employed was to specifically target regional brands that were successful and together grow them to become national/global brands. This focused approach was how they won and accelerated their agency growth through the expansion of Southwest Airlines, Wal Mart and SBC/ATT.
(We know,this is not a quick fix, but you can create a strategy to focus on which brands in your region are successful, growing, and worth the extra effort to get in your pipeline.)
3. Retaining good clients
While agency growth often focuses on new clients, it is just as important to keep your good clients and grow them. BSSP has worked with MINI USA on their automotive products for over 9 years, including a 7-year (MINI management mandated) RFP they won to retain the business. Some of the key strategies to keeping this relationship included:
- Focus on what works right in the relationship; do not dwell on the issues.
- If there is a mistake, admit it and MOVE ON.
- Don’t wait to talk finances for the annual budget review; check in together more often, and demonstrate where savings can happen instead of just looking for new revenue opportunities.
- Make uncomfortable decisions – if you are uncomfortable that can lead to a good change.
And a reminder from Sandy Chilewich, Founder & CD of Chilewich/Sultan LLC – textile manufacturing and design: “Agencies need to not just focus on Sell-In, make sure you Sell-Through” … (as in keep the attention to detail throughout the program).
4. Improving Your Pitch
Lisa Colantuono of AAR Partners has seen the good, bad and ugly of agency pitches. At a recent conference Lisa provided 10 great tips on how to Tip the Pitch in Your Agency’s Favor. Boiling that down even further, here are 3 must do’s:
- It’s critical you communicate your agency culture. Whether that’s in your credentials deck, office tour or via online work session. And translate that culture visually.
- To ensure the pitch process stays on budget, on time and on strategy … give the prospective client a payback incentive to demonstrate the value of those three and to lessen the scope-creep and deviation from strategy that can derail your pitch.
- If you can showcase your agency/brand/culture/manifesto for the brand pitch visually – do it in a video (under 2 minutes).
While there are many other elements to successful agency growth, these 4 are common themes we hear over and over. In our own words:
- Know what you are all about as an agency
- Focus, focus, focus to achieve outsized growth
- Make your clients want to keep coming back for more
- Manage the pitch process aggressively
Hopefully these tips give you good insights into what you can do to accelerate growth. Leave a comment, or give me a ring if you’d like to learn more or discuss your agency’s unique growth challenges.
Posted by Janet Vinci